2011 MAC Blogger Roundtable, week 1
And here are the Week One questions, posed by Bull Run.
1) Lets start with the new blood. There are several new coaches in the conference, which coach was the best get and why?
Don Treadwell was easily the best get. After Michigan State’s success last year, and especially his performance as interim head coach against Wisconsin, I think Treadwell was on a lot of head coach watch-lists, and if the Spartans perform as expected this fall and if Treadwell had stayed, he could have found himself interviewing for AQ program head coach positions this winter.
On the other hand, I’ve mentioned several times that I think Darrell Hazell has easily the weakest resume of the new head coaches.
2) Lets look at the old blood? Which coach is the most likely to be dumped after the season and which is most likely to be plucked away by a big AQ school?
He won’t be dumped, but I think Frank Solich may announce his retirement this year — though the retirement might not actually occur for a few more years. The only other coach who’s been around more than three years is Bill Cubit, entering his seventh season as head coach of Western Michigan. Cubit has never gotten the Broncos over the hump — they’ve twice finished second in the West and lost their bowl — but unless this season goes really badly, I think they’ll give him one more year.
I’m never going to predict a second-year coach getting hired away, though as we saw with Michael Haywood, it does happen. The third-year coaches are Dave Clawson (Bowling Green), Ron English (EMU), and Tim Beckman (Toledo). I think Clawson and English will do well enough to keep their jobs for another year, but barring miracle seasons, will not get any interest from other schools. Beckman seems to have Toledo turned around nicely, and I think a lot of athletic directors will be watching him closely this year.
3) Which somewhat realistically winnable non-conference game would give the MAC the most publicity? What are the odds of the MAC team winning that game?
Several MAC teams have winnable games against AQ-conference foes. Miami should have a fair shot at beating Minnesota, and I can easily imagine Ohio beating Rutgers. I think Northern Illinois may have a fair shot against Kansas also. If all three win, it should go a long way toward MAC football gaining national respect.
4) What do you think of the UMass addition and how would you realign the divisions?
I’m ambivalent on this point. From a purely football point of view, it’s probably a win for the MAC — Massachusetts is well-positioned to become a minor FBS power, and they might raise the profile of the MAC similar to the way Boise State and TCU raised the profiles of the WAC and Mountain West. The men’s basketball games are also a plus, though I would have liked to see more required basketball games. Ultimately, however, the MAC will succeed or fail on the strength of full members, not single-sport affiliates.
As for divisional alignment, assuming that additional members aren’t forthcoming, the most sensible approach seems to be moving Bowling Green to the West Division for football only. That would work well geographically, keep rivalries intact (making the Peace Pipe a divisional rivalry), and balance the divisions at 7 each. After that, of course, you face the challenge of scheduling two 7-team divisions. If each team plays all six divisional foes, that leaves only two games against teams from the other division, but uneven scheduling within a division has its own set of problems.
5) Who wins the East and what is their key game along that journey?
My preseason pick a month ago was Miami, and I’m sticking with that. Their key games will be on the road, October 22 at Toledo, and November 22 at Ohio. I’m sure RedHawk fans will also have September 17 circled, when they’ll go to Minneapolis hoping to remind Jerry Kill that, while Minnesota might offer Big Ten pay, their football team is usually MAC quality.
6) Who wins the West and what is their key game along that journey?
Northern Illinois has a slight edge with an easier schedule against the East Division, but again I’m sticking with my pick of Toledo from a month ago. Their key games will both come at home, October 22 against Miami University, and November 1 against Northern Illinois.
7) Rank the teams first to last.
1. Toledo: in Tim Beckman’s second season, the Rockets will take the conference championship
2. Miami: Don Treadwell will pick up right where Michael Haywood left off, and the RedHawks will repeat as East Division champs
3. Northern Illinois: Northern Illinois will remain a tough competitor under first-year coach Dave Doeren
4. Ohio: Frank Solich’s Bobcats will again stumble down the stretch and come up just short
5. Western Michigan
7. Bowling Green
8. Eastern Michigan
9. Central Michigan
12. Kent State: as I’ve mentioned before, I expect the Golden Flashes to struggle under first-year head coach Darrell Hazell
13. Ball State: as far as I’m concerned the Cardinals always start in last place